Martha Hale and her husband are taken by the sheriff with his wife to the isolated home of the Wrights. Hale tells the authorities that on the previous morning he found Mr. Wright strangled to death. Mrs. Wright claimed not to know who killed him. She was arrested and awaiting charges.

Mrs. Hale and the sheriff's wife are to gather clothing and see to her preserves. The men mock women's "trifles" and jokingly caution them not to miss any clues, before they turn to their "more serious" work of finding a motive. In a basket of patches destined for a quilt, the women find a strangled canary. In quilt-like fragments, they piece together the difficult life of the third woman and decide to conceal the evidence that could incriminate her.


The kitchen contains many signs of Minnie Wright's life of abuse and violence, signs that are seen clearly by the women and ignored by the men. Written before women could sit on juries, this story raises important issues about the gendered aspects of justice, the contingency of laws, and the construction of psychiatric diagnoses, especially insanity in crime. It was based on Glaspell's earlier play, "Trifles," in which she played the role of Mrs Hale in the first performance at Providence, R.I. in 1916.


First published: 1927 (Ernest Benn, London). This story was selected for The Best American Short Stories of the Century, eds. John Updike & Katrina Kenison (Boston: Houghton Mifflin) 1999.


Creative Education

Place Published

Mankato, Minn.



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